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13 Ways Speed Skaters Brave The Boundaries Of Physics

Well that's intense. Here are a few reasons why speed skating is a physical feat like no other. Brought to you by United — proud to fly Team USA for over 30 years.

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1. They travel as fast as cars — but are, you know, humans.

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When Shani Davis broke the world record for the 1,500 m skate, he went about 33.2 mph. Short track skaters go even quicker.

2. They're basically running on toothpicks.

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For the first five to six steps, most skaters aren't skating at all — they're sprinting on 1 mm of metal.

3. They actually travel faster than human ankles allow.

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Because of clap skates, skaters are able to skate at a more dramatic angle of resistance, leading to longer contact with the ice and faster speeds.

4. The speed of their bodies creates significant drafts — a little something that happens in NASCAR.

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Speed skaters are hailed for their decisiveness; the best skaters know the perfect moment to pass.

5. Most skaters balance at a full 45-degree angle.

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And to stay upright, their skate also carves into the ice at the same sharp angle.

6. And they're balancing atop slippery water.

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Most ice rinks are doused with water before the race to make the ice slicker and faster.

7. When they go around turns, their legs support double their weight.

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(Well, at least the weight of a whole other person.) A gravitational force of nearly 200 lbs is applied to the inner leg as a speed skater goes around the turn.

8. The tips of their gloves protect them from burning their fingers on the ice.

And they're more than just wool mittens.
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And they're more than just wool mittens.

9. Their protective suits are often lined with Kevlar.


Strong neck guards have been required in the U.S. since 2012.

10. Relay skaters must be prepared to go from zero to hero in an instant.

There's no lap limit for short track speed skaters. They must be prepared to tag in for their teammates at any moment.
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There's no lap limit for short track speed skaters. They must be prepared to tag in for their teammates at any moment.

11. The movement of their limbs creates so much friction, it burns.

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Team USA's 2014 suits were designed by Lockheed Martin — you know, the company that builds missiles and rocket ships.

12. Most skaters bend so low, they feel the persisent pain of a never-ending squat.

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The pain can be likened to wall sits... that last forever. Athletes often struggle to sit or stand after long training sessions.

13. And, most impressively, they do it all under the weight of GOLD.

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At 85 medals, speed skating has accounted for the most medals in U.S. Winter Olympic history.

Watch U.S. speedskater Shani Davis as he takes off for another gold in Sochi. Brought to you by United.

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